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Private investment in communications infrastructure vital

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Half way through 2011 America and Florida continue to struggle to find solutions that will stimulate our respective economies and get us back to work.  For Floridians, frustration results directly from the state’s high unemployment rate (10.6 percent) and low economic growth. Hopefully this will refocus policymakers’ efforts on job creation and economic growth.

So how do we get things moving again? One way to help jumpstart the economy is through the expansion of broadband access. 

In his State of the Union address, the President pledged to bring high-speed wireless broadband to 98 percent of Americans within the next five years. This is a noble goal, but one that we should not and do not have to ask taxpayers to fund. 

Part of the answer is private investment, including quick approval of the pending merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, which will unleash billions of dollars into improving the AT&T’s communications infrastructure. 

In March, AT&T announced plans to merge with T-Mobile for $39 billion. Under terms of the agreement, which is currently under review by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), AT&T agreed to invest an additional $8 billion over seven years to enhance its 4G LTE network. The investment will extend AT&T’s network over an additional one million square miles, delivering wireless broadband to more than 97 percent of the people in the U.S. 

It’s certainly something to pay attention to if you’re one of those 55 million people, but especially if you’re concerned about Florida’s economy.  There is little doubt that access to high-speed Internet is vital for businesses, especially small businesses because it connects them to new customers in new countries, suppliers across the nation and even to their banks and other financial institutions. 

All of which helps businesses grow and add jobs in Florida and across our nation.  

As FCC Commissioner Michael Copps explained it: “By some estimates, ubiquitous affordable broadband would quickly add $500 billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.2 million jobs.” 

Because of the potential benefits to the job market and workforce, unions are also backing the merger.  “Improving broadband deployment, connection speeds and adoption will help facilitate job and business growth across the nation,” said Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen.

Right now too few Florida businesses have access to 4G LTE telecommunications services. This merger could change that, and could help to transform our economy in the process. A Discovery Institute study released earlier this year found that greater broadband availability could result in more than 143,000 Florida jobs created or saved, and a $7.5 billion economic impact – a figure that shouldn’t be ignored. 

Florida business owners help to drive economic growth and they aren’t turning to government to solve its problems in a stalled economy. But we also want to be sure government isn’t standing in the way of progress and opportunity for our countless businesses.

Policymakers can’t create the jobs, but they can create the right environment for it. Prompt approval of this merger could improve our infrastructure and the business climate in our state, which is why Florida lawmakers should support this proposal and do everything they can to encourage the FCC to approve it.

John Hallman

Founder of Florida 

Taxpayers Union